Friday, December 2, 2011

Holy Smoke

Holy Smoke Grill roasted Santa Maria Tri Tip
When you cook this your neighbors might think the college of cardinals have selected a new Pope because white smoke will be wafting over the hood. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah! This is a California Central Coast specialty. If you are driving from Ventura County to the top of San Luis Obispo County you’ll see these medieval looking grill rigs set up in farmers markets, liquor store parking lots and many other places off Hwy 101. If you smell smoldering oak in the air someone is probably grilling tri tip nearby.
The seasonings here are mostly traditional, primarily salt and pepper. But I like to add a little more spice to it in the form of good Spanish pimenton. You can buy some pretty okay commercial rubs but they do contain things like “flowing agents” which don’t improve the flavor.
Two untraditional things I do are to use an internal brine, and then to serve it up with an Argentine Chimichurri sauce on the side. The brine idea I picked up from butcher Tom Mylan as described in the book PRIMAL CUTS by Marissa Guggiana. He uses an internal brine for prime rib. I’ve used it for that with great success and thought that tri tip was the next outrage I could pull off and indeed it worked. You will, however, need an injector for this but they are cheap. The meat remains moist while you still get that kind of burnt crusty exterior that we love here.
The other untraditional aspect to this yippee-ay-o classic is chimichurri. The Argentines are the masters of the grill and I bow down to them (but only so far) and their chimichurri goes so well with grilled meat that I resort to it all the time as a homemade table condiment.
Wood. Like real oak or else oak lump charcoal. If you resort to briquettes you are a total weenie and have no business getting anywhere near a real grilling station, anywhere ever.
3 ½ pounds tri tip, intact
1 cup water
¼ cup sea salt for the brine, plus ¼ cup additional for the rub
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Spanish pimenton de la vera or piment d’Esplette
For the chimichurri
1 bunch parsley
½ of one bunch cilantro
8 to 10 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ cup good extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon (or so) white vinegar
Large pinch of salt
One day ahead of cooking prepare the brine by bringing water to a boil and dissolving the sea salt into it. It may not dissolve completely but don’t worry about that part. Using your Frankenstein like injector squirt a good shot into the thickest part of the meat. Wrap it and refrigerate overnight.
Make the chimichurri ahead so that it’s there and finished when you need it
Stem and chop the parsley and cilantro
Combine the parsley and cilantro into the bowl of a food processor with the other ingredients except for the olive oil. Pulse a couple of times. Then with the motor running on low gradually drizzle in the olive oil. Let it rest.
Start your fire, preferably using the chimney method
In a pie pan or something similar mix up the ingredients for the rub; the remaining salt, the pepper and the pimenton. Rub all over the tri tip and don’t skimp on the salt part.
When your fire is hot enough grill the meat, turning only once*, until it hits an internal temperature of 130F. Take it off and transfer to a platter and let it rest covered in foil for ten minutes.
Carve and serve along with the chimi as a condiment.
*Note to cooks; it drives me ‘effing nuts to watch amateur patio daddy-o’s constantly flipping steaks and burgers. It only slows down the cooking process to where you just end up with road kill. My own dad was a master at that.